May 10, 2022 12.00 pm

Neal Juster: Driving plans for growth and prosperity in Lincolnshire with Town Deals

How the University of Lincoln is helping to deliver growth and prosperity across the county

By Vice Chancellor at the University of Lincoln

My last article for The Lincolnite touched on how the University can help deliver on the levelling up agenda. Following a recent round-table discussion, led by former cabinet minister Justine Greening and attended by leaders in industry, education and health from across the county, I was pleased to see Justine agree that the University of Lincoln should be ‘at the heart’ of enabling the region to level up.

To truly deliver levelling up across Lincoln and Greater Lincolnshire, this ambition needs to be matched with determination and indeed funding to deliver the types of projects that can transform the area. This is where the Government’s Towns Fund is significant. Greater Lincolnshire has been awarded a total of £131 million from the £3.6 billion fund, with six towns – Lincoln, Boston, Grimsby, Mablethorpe, Scunthorpe, and Skegness – all successfully securing deals.

The prospect of funding has seen ambitious plans and projects developed. Such plans not only address longstanding issues experienced across those towns and the county as whole, including connectivity and health inequality, but aim to put our region in the best possible position to maximise its strengths and deliver prosperity for the people and businesses who call it home.

Crucial to delivery is partnerships and bridging the public and private sectors effectively to help ensure success. That is something I believe we at the University are uniquely placed to assist with. Our record for cross sector collaboration is something we’re very proud of and we will continue to use our experience and expertise to help partners deliver on their town deal ambitions.

The University is represented on all the County’s Town Deal boards. The role of these boards is to translate the ideas originally submitted for funding into concrete, delivered projects. The boards allow us to engage directly with our various public and private sector partners and share the expertise and experience of our staff as the projects develop.

We’re also taking a more hands-on approach, serving as a delivery partner on several projects. This includes the Barbican Hotel redevelopment in Lincoln which will see the beautiful but derelict hotel transformed to support our growing creative sector. Developed in partnership with Lincolnshire Co-op, the Barbican Creative Hub will host a public gallery space to exhibit and create work, along with a range of studios which will be made available to creative freelancers. The facility will enable us to nurture and retain local talent in one of the area’s emerging sectors, it will have a genuine positive impact on our city. Construction work has begun and the site was visited by Lord Parkinson, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Arts, at the end of April.

In Lincoln we are also supporting the delivery of the Lincoln Made Smarter scheme, which focusses on supporting Lincoln based SMEs to adopt new digital technologies. This project will take advantage of the fantastic existing relationships the University has with local businesses and assist them in driving productivity and will further support economic growth.

Further afield, the University is supporting the Connect Coast Town Deal board, which is delivering projects across Mablethorpe and Skegness, with their Campus for Future Living in Mablethorpe. The Campus will serve as centre for innovation and training in the health sector and promoting job creation and self-employment opportunities, while helping fill vacancies for local clinicians. The ultimate aim of the project is to help address health inequalities in our coastal communities. The core building for the project has reached the final stages of design and construction is expected to commence soon.

These projects, and the many others being delivered in all six places that have benefitted from a town deal will be crucial in helping to start levelling up Lincolnshire. We also have to ensure this funding has a legacy. Again, this is an area in which I believe the University can play an important role. We’re focussed on upskilling people, attracting and retaining talent within the county to ensure that partners supporting projects have access to talented, qualified individuals who are able to create impact that goes beyond the initial investment. Our world-renowned academics and research teams can also help to ensure partners and businesses across the county have access to the latest insights and information they need to tackle emerging issues.

The Towns Fund has provided Lincolnshire with an opportunity to deliver much needed infrastructure. The University is committed to playing our part in delivering them, as well as driving progress and continuous growth in the region. This will continue to be important as the Government announces new funding to help regions via the Shared Prosperity Fund. Initial allocations have already been announced for 2022/23 (North East Lincolnshire £6.2 million, North Lincolnshire £6.5 million, Boston £2.2 million, East Lindsey £4.4 million, Lincoln £2.8 million, North Kesteven £3.2 million, South Holland £2.7 million, South Kesteven £3.9 million, West Lindsey £2.7 million, Lincolnshire £4 million) but bids for how to spend the money in line with the fund’s objectives need to be made by the relevant authorities. The University will work with our partners to help shape, and then deliver, these projects.

Professor Neal Juster is Vice Chancellor of the University of Lincoln